I just finished the book Coming Home: A Mormon's Return to Faith.
The topic interested me. How does one leave the LDS church, and then go back fifteen years later?
WHY would someone go back?
I almost stopped reading after the first chapter, because it wasn't anything that I hadn't heard at church. The reasons she gave for leaving the church were the stereotypical reasons for leaving... Offended. Angry. Hurt. Lost the spirit. Stopped doing what she was supposed to do.
That's not why I left, and I've talked to a lot of people who have left. Those aren't the reasons they left. John Dehlin has done a lot of research on why people question the LDS church, and that's not what he has found.
She said she was writing the book to those who are questioning the church... Those that have left or are struggling... But if that is her audience, then why did she use phrases like "anti-mormon rhetoric"? Language like that reinforces harmful stereotypes about those that have left. It reinforces members ability to dismiss the "apostates". It definitely doesn't feel helpful to those that are questioning and trying to reconcile themselves with the religion.
I would say her real target audience is LDS people who don't want to know why people leave, who don't want to understand anything outside of their world. It is a story of hope for those that cannot accept their loved ones' new beliefs. As one who has left, others keeping that "hope" would be insanely frustrating.
If my family had refused to listen to ME and accept ME, I'm not sure what kind of relationship I would have with them. It definitely wouldn't be as good as it is now. It would be strained at best, but more likely non-existent. I had to fight too hard to learn to love and accept myself. Having family members also fighting against me wouldn't have worked. In order to survive, I would have had to limit or completely cut off family interactions.
Her experiences were the opposite of mine. She left the church, struggled and struggled and struggled, and then came back and everything was happy. I struggled and struggled and struggled to make church fit me. I fought, I cried, I nearly died, and then I finally left. Everything got better. Almost overnight the world became bright. I didn't feel like I lost God. I felt like I followed God and was lead out. I know that wasn't her experience, so she couldn't write about it... I just want my experience out there too. Leaving was the best thing I could have done for myself.
The stereotypical "TBM" might appreciate this book, but I wouldn't recommend it to them. I wouldn't want people reading this book, and then not listening to their loved ones. This is one woman's story. Her story is important, but it is my fear that people will try to make her story universal. (Similar to what happened with the Josh Weed blog not too long ago.)
There is nothing wrong with going back to the church after leaving it. There is nothing wrong with leaving it. Or staying in it. Or never joining it. I wish that had been more the message of the book... which is to say if I ever write a book, that will be MY message.